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December 06, 2010

‘Inception’ Blu-ray extras reveal the stuff that dreams are made of

Posted in: Movies

NEW ON BLU-RAY: “INCEPTION”

"Inception" (Warner Bros.)

Here’s what you won’t learn from the “Inception” Blu-ray combo pack due Tuesday: what the final scene of Christopher Nolan’s sci-fi blockbuster really means. The director delivers no commentary track, and he has no intention of clarifying the “was-it-all-just-a-dream” debate inspired by the spinning top at the end of his film.

Nevertheless, the Blu-ray does solve some of the production mysteries of “Inception.” There’s a featurette on dream research, a comic prologue to the movie called “The Cobol Job,” concept art, trailers and a soundtrack.  When watched in “extraction mode,” the Blu-ray’s making-of vignettes reveal details that will interest Nolanites, mechanical engineers and anyone who wants to send a train barreling down a city street.

Now, for some key questions and answers…

1) Could you really build a staircase to nowhere like the one Arthur (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) and Ariadne (Ellen Page) climb?

No, although Nolan’s team tried. Nolan is a fan of M.C. Escher, and he got the idea for the infinite staircase from the artist’s print “Ascending and Descending,” which depicts a mathematically impossible Penrose stairway. Nolan’s team built its set so that, viewed from one angle, the top of the staircase lines up with the bottom. With computer modeling, they determined the precise height and angle where the camera would have to be placed to maintain the illusion.

2) How did the filmmakers shoot a train crashing down a Los Angeles city street?

The train, which signifies the danger in Cobb’s subconscious, is actually a 36-foot Sterling tractor with a plywood and fiberglass train model on top of it. To amp up the incongruity of the image and remind the audience that the train should not be there, Nolan had it smash through several cars and churn up the pavement.

3) Are Ellen Page and Leonardo DiCaprio sitting among real explosions in the Parisian cafe scene?

Yes. Special-effects supervisor Chris Corbould created the explosions using air cannons and added a car and  motorbike flipping over in front of the actors to heighten the effect. When they shot the scene, the actors were in a little cone of stillness among the explosions, where even the paper cup on the table didn’t move.

"Inception" (Warner Bros.)

4) How does Joseph Gordon-Levitt defy gravity?

In the hotel corridor fight sequence, Nolan used a centrifuge to rotate the set (similar to the way Stanley Kubrick did in “2001“). Lights and cameras had to be bolted down, and Gordon-Levitt had to rehearse for two weeks to master the movement of running over the revolving floor.

5) Is that CG snow in the Bond-esque ski chase scene?

No, that’s Calgary’s finest, the most snow the area had received in 30 years. Nolan’s team created avalanches  by dropping explosions onto the mountains from helicopters.

6) What’s the significance of the buildings crumbling into the sea like glaciers?

The script called for Dom (DiCaprio) to emerge from the ocean to a giant, crumbling cliff face made out of buildings. The idea is that Dom and Mal (Marion Cotillard) had created an entire city of architecture in the 50 years they’ve spent in a limbo state. The water represents Dom’s subconscious eroding that created world.

– Rebecca Keegan

twitter.com/thatrebecca

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